The Low-Emissions Solutions Conference (LESC) took place at the GOP Theatre in Bonn, Germany, on the sidelines of the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Organized by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), the conference sought to create a space for in-depth dialogue with policymakers on implementing ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) at scale by taking action at the city, local and project levels.
Held in a relaxed dinner format designed to encourage interaction among participants from governments, business, academia and civil society, the event included open discussion with participants, table-level discussions and spotlight presentations on what is still needed and how public-private partnerships can support the common objectives among countries, cities, businesses and academia.
The outcomes of the LESC will inform the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action High-Level Roundtable on Innovation on 14 November.
Leena Wokeck, CSR Asia, moderated the event. She welcomed participants and said the aim of the conference was to foster dialogue on policies that spur innovation, support action and allow implementation at scale
Peter Bakker, President and CEO, WBCSD, said the move to a low carbon society is inevitable. He stressed that more than 600 companies have made commitments to climate action, which capture over US$15 trillion of revenue. Bakker emphasized the challenge of linking science and local levels of government.
Guido Schmidt-Traub, Executive Director, SDSN, emphasized the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the broader context of reducing poverty and urban development. He described decarbonization pathways and local experiences in many cities, and announced the launch of a massive online open course (MOOC) on climate solutions.
Ashok Sridharan, Mayor, Bonn, Germany, and First Vice President of ICLEI, highlighted the need to build coalitions with all stakeholders at all levels.
City and Business Leaders on Innovation
During this interactive session on innovation, Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, CEO, Solvay, highlighted innovations in batteries, building isolation and lighting, but noted existing challenges to achieving their full mitigation potential. A participant from local government noted that small islands are too small to bring to the attention of global markets. He emphasized renewable, resilient, local energy supplies for small islands.
Larissa Rose, Managing Director, Queensland Renewable Fuels Association, underscored the role of industry associations in identifying where the finance gaps are and bridging those gaps.
Paul Ross, City of Edmonton, Canada, said joint ventures provide the best diversion results for waste management.
Barbara Kreissler, Philips Lighting, said lighting is experiencing the biggest transformation since the invention of the light bulb. She underscored financing solutions for cities to pay for investments through energy savings.
Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever, said the impacts of climate change will be visible in cities before anywhere else. He stressed that CEOs should match their climate pledges with their company facts. He identified the leaders on climate action as private sector first, followed by cities and regional governments. A business participant highlighted the use of bamboo fiber to replace fiberglass infrastructure.
Johannes Van der Merwe, City of Cape Town, South Africa, explained that his city’s transition to 100% LED was financed with green bonds, and that demand for those green bonds exceeded supply four-fold.
Spotlight: City Stories on Innovation
Johanna Partin, Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA), explained that CNCA is a coalition of cities at the vanguard of climate action, which have adopted the most ambitious carbon neutrality targets around the world. She underscored that achieving 100% emission reductions requires a radical transformation of systems. Partin noted that thermal systems account for 30% of emissions in cities. She outlined local initiatives, including retrofits, mandates, district heating, bikes, renewable energy procurement, electric vehicles and carbon budgets.
Participants shared results from the table talks, highlighting issues such as: fossil fuel and electricity subsidies; time-efficiency of resource use; losses in food supply chains; improving connections between cities and rural areas; climate-smart agriculture; and cities and water supplies.
City and Business Leaders on Science-based Policy and Actions
During this interactive session, participants discussed issues related to science-based policy and actions. Mauricio Rodas, Mayor, Quito, Ecuador, highlighted access to finance and data. The We Mean Business Coalition said more than 300 companies have made commitments to science-based targets. A participant from academia said science-based targets should use a holistic approach beyond climate change. A business participant underscored the role of bicycles and entrepreneurs.
Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI, identified challenges with local-level action on climate change, including the lack of a holistic perspective, procurement rules and the inclusion of social responsibility in adopted measures.
Feike Sijbesma, CEO, Royal DSM, emphasized the importance of carbon pricing. He said only 15% of global emissions fall under a carbon pricing regime. He suggested making companies future proof by using internal carbon pricing, and cautioned that companies that do not prepare themselves for carbon pricing will be at risk. Sijbesma stressed that carbon pricing needs to be inclusive and supported by the population. He said a carbon price of around US$50/ton is needed to spur action.
Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Fiji, said national governments alone alone cannot achieve the Paris Agreement goals, and that the private sector and local governments have a key role to play. He stressed the need for climate-informed and climate-smart development.
In his closing remarks, Manuel De Araujo, Mayor, Quelimane, Mozambique, recalled the Brundtland Commission’s definition of sustainable development, noting that today’s needs are not being met while the lives of millions of people are being compromised in the future. He said local governments in developing countries want to work with business, but do not have the capacity to speak the language of business that is required to develop bankable projects. De Araujo stressed that local governments are aware of climate change impacts, since they live with them every single day.
Following the closing remarks, participants watched the trailer for Climate Action: Solutions for a Changing Planet.
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